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September is for School

By: Camey VanSant

By John

Being an EMT was something I’d always wanted to do, but due to the busy schedule that comes with high school, I never got the chance. I also knew I wanted to work in the outdoor industry in the future and getting some sort of Wilderness medical certification is a prerequisite for most of the more exciting jobs. NOLS (the National Outdoor Leadership School) runs a Wilderness EMT program in Lander WY, and I knew that would be the perfect place to officially start my gap year. Besides my biennial lifeguarding courses, I had no medical knowledge and did not really know what EMTs did. Unexpectedly this course would have a much bigger impact on my year and my life than I originally realized.

I arrived at the NOLS campus in Lander not knowing what to expect or who I would meet. Although I have been to Wyoming plenty of times in the past, I’d never spent much time in Lander. The first thing that greeted me as I walked to my cabin were the beautiful red cliffs and the ominous Wind River Range rising from the sagebrush flats that make up most of central Wyoming. The first person I met turned out to be one of my three instructors for the next month. He was an older gentleman, tanned with an accent that elicited images of surfers on the California coast. Turns out I was not far off, but besides being a surfer and climber, he was a veteran flight Paramedic with the kinds of stories that it would take me 1,000 lifetimes to experience.

The next 30 days consisted of rigorous class sessions from 8 am-5 pm Monday through Friday with weekly tests and quizzes. In addition to the classroom time, we ran many practice scenarios. These scenarios would progress from simple two-man rescues with a simple fracture or medical issue, to a massive 20-man simulated mine rescue with a full incident command structure and radio communications. In addition to on-campus learning, every student was sent to work two 8-hour shifts at a local emergency department. On my first “clinical rotation” my partner and I helped flight paramedics load a patient into the helicopter. (see photo). That was one of the highlights of my time in Wyoming.

I was able to spend a lot of time outside in the beautiful Wyoming fall weather. From trail running to fly fishing to just exploring, the Wind River Range offers many opportunities for outdoor recreation. I caught sight of the biggest brown trout I have ever seen in my last few days in Lander but failed to catch him.

The end of the course was marked by two written final exams and 4 practical exams. Even after that, we needed to schedule our own NREMT(National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians) exam at home. I passed that test upon arriving home and left for Costa Rica a few days later, not knowing how I was going to use my new certification.